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“Our commitment to quality is eternal.” These are the proud words pronounced on the web site of the Memorial Necrópole Ecumênica, a vertical cemetery established in Santos in Brazil in 1983. At present, 14,000 burial spaces spread over 14 floors accommodate people of all different religions.
An extension currently under construction will create another 25,000 niches, set inside a 108-metre-high tower block that will complete the complex. Managed by a private company and equipped with a restaurant, a chapel, a lagoon with turtles and a peacock garden, it has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Santos. The vertical cemetery is particularly widespread in Brazil and is also beginning to be used in other places: the Panteón Memorial Towers complex, which consists of 13 towers in a vaguely deconstructivist style, has recently been presented at Bogotá in Colombia and sparked debate concerning changes in funeral rituals related to the social changes that have taken place over the last 30 years. In the South Korean pavilion at the last Venice Architecture Biennale, the project The Last House by architect Chanjoong Kim (founder of System Lab) addressed the same notion, bringing it into line with more contemporary architectural styles and approaches and drawing on a zoomorphic language that echoed systems of vascular circulation. Architecture appears swift to take the opportunity to address a new area where death creates a market, on the borderline between consumerism and entertainment.